Developing relationships with parents is an important part of our work as educators. Caring for the safety and wellbeing of their little ones during the day is most easily achieved through the kind of partnership in which both educators and families feel comfortable with each other. The best time to establish these relationships is right at the beginning of a new school year, or the day you welcome a new child into your program. In this article, we share tips and resources for welcoming families and laying the foundation for a strong, ongoing relationship.
Getting to Know Each Other: Initial Introductions
As the saying goes, you get one chance to make a first impression. That’s why initial meetings are an important part of the relationship-building process. From the very first introductions, we can help each family member feel welcomed by using a warm and friendly demeanor and expressing interest in getting to know them.
When you are working with families, there will probably be a few different people who you will get to know. Parents, siblings, grandparents, and other friends or family members are often involved in children’s lives – and you will likely get to meet them at drop-off and pick-up. The children in your care will feel especially secure and supported when they see you interact with the important people in their lives.
It is important that you get to know the names of each family member so that you can address them personally when you greet them. And, while this might go without saying, correct pronunciation is critically important. If you are unsure how to pronounce someone’s name, be sure to ask them as soon as you can, so that you will know you are saying it correctly. Correctly pronouncing someone’s name is a sign of respect that lets each family member know that you value them and want to get to know them.
Establishing Communication: Checking In
Starting at a new child care program is a time of transition for parents, just as it is for their children. During the first few weeks, many parents will want to check in frequently to find out how their child is adjusting. Examples of topics they’ll want to know about include whether their child is socializing, engaging in activities, and napping regularly.
Sending frequent updates during the first few weeks after a child joins your program will help ease parents’ minds, and establish a habit of open communication. Inquiring about the best way to update and contact parents underscores your desire to include them as partners. Some parents might like a phone call, while others might prefer an email, text, or short note. Sending photos to parents showing their children playing and having fun with the other children is another good way to let them know that their child is doing well.
Building Community: Spending Time with Parents
While you are getting to know each other, a great way to connect is to invite parents and family members to spend time in the classroom. You might invite them to join during the morning meeting, outside play, or storytime. If parents are comfortable, some might enjoy participating by reading a story to the children or playing an instrument for children to dance along with. You can also invite parents to a community-building event, such as a potluck, during which they can get to know the other families in your program.
As we spend time with families, we get to learn more about them by seeing how they interact with their children. Sharing an activity together allows educators and families to become more comfortable with one another, and gives parents an opportunity to see what life is like in the classroom. These interactions promote understanding and lay the foundation for more open communication moving forward.
Moving Forward: Resources for Ongoing Relationship-Building
It is important that our efforts to partner with parents continue beyond our initial meetings. Relationship-building is an ongoing process that requires continuous communication.
If you are interested in additional resources to support your work during the rest of the school year, you might enjoy these G2K articles from the archives…